Champagne Gaston Chiquet
Though their vineyards have been tended since 1746 by eight generations of Chiquets, it was in 1919 that two winemaking brothers, Fernand and Gaston Chiquet, came together to create their house Chiquet Brothers. Grower Champagne as we know it was born: it was pioneering at the time to keep their fruit for themselves, make their own wine, and label it with their name. Now, Nicolas Chiquet farms 23 heactares in the Valle de la Marne in the villages of Ay, Dizy, Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Ay.
All of the fruit (including that which is used in the non-vintage cuvee) comes from premier and grand cru grapes. The vineyards here slope down steeply to the village by the Marne River, and the best locations are just outside of the town, sheltered from the wind and with maximum exposure to the sun. At the heart of his holdings are Chiquet’s Chardonnay in Ay, planted in the 1930’s, a truly rare parcel: nearly no Chardonnay remains in this noble Grand Cru Pinot Noir village. Nicolas does not employ any oak aging at Gaston Chiquet; he believes that concentration, fruit maturity and malolactic fermentation impart enough body and texture to make aging in barrel unnecessary.
Walking through a hillside vineyard in Cumières overlooking the Marne, Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy’s parcels are easy to distinguish from the others. The lush green grass growing between his rows of bare vines was evidence of his distaste for chemical pesticides and herbicides. “If you don’t have passion, you won’t make very good Champagne,” he said as he strolled the vineyard, waving at local hunters who also walked the rows, shotguns in hand, searching for rabbits and pheasants.
Jean-Baptiste, who has 14 hectares in the Vallée de la Marne, is the fifth generation in his family to grow grapes in the region, and whose winemaking roots date to the 17th century. Geoffroy’s vines average about 20 years of age, and the oldest are from 1926. His prime parcels are in the village of Cumières, and also has holdings in Damery, Hautvillers, and Dizy. Viticulture is aimed at sustainability, eschewing all chemicals and employing methods such as the planting of cover crops, tilling of the soil and the encouraged habitation of predatory insects to combat vine pests.
In 2006, Jean-Baptiste purchased a historical and beautifully-appointed winery built in the late 1880s on five levels — three for the cuverie and two for the caves. This allows Jean-Baptiste to work entirely by gravity. The top level of the cellar houses two traditional Coquard vertical presses that feed into the settling tanks on the level below, with enameled-steel fermentation tanks and wooden foudres located on the level below that. Only the coeur de cuvée, or the middle 1,800 liters from a standard 2,550-liter pressing, is used for the upper-tier cuvées. All of these wines are also riddled by hand. Geoffroy vinifies all of his parcels separately in order to retain their individual identities and to provide as diverse a palette of wines as possible for blending his various champagnes.
Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils
Didier Gimonnet is the second generation of growers to direct this superb estate, with 28 hectares of holdings in grand and premier cru villages, predominantly in the Côte de Blancs. The winery is in the premier cru village of Cuis where Didier’s family has been growing grapes since 1750. Pierre Gimonnet, Dider’s Grandfather, started bottling estate champagnes in 1935. In addition to the 13.5 hectares in Cuis, Gimonnet owns 11 hectares of chardonnay vines in the grand cru villages of Cramant and Chouilly, plus another hectare in Oger and two in Vertus. Gimonnet also owns half a hectare of pinot noir, split between the grand cru of Aÿ and 1er cru of Mareuil-sur Aÿ.
The high percentage of old vines at this estate sets it apart in a region suffering from a plethora of very young vineyards. Seventy percent of Gimonnet’s holdings are over 30 years old, of which some forty percent are over 40 years old, with 100+ year old vines in the lieux-dits of Le Fond du Bateau, planted in 1911, and Buisson planted in 1913, both in the Grand Cru village of Cramant.
“Cramant,” says Gimonnet, is “very expressive and round;” Chouilly is similar in style but slightly less concentrated; Cuis is much more “neutral, acid, fresh, aerial:” this north-facing village is the coolest in the Côte des Blancs. These are sappy, crunchy, refreshing champagnes of acupuncturally tonic qualities with lingering, salty purity.
Champagne Vilmart & Cie
Vilmart was founded as récoltant-manipulant 1890 by Désiré Vilmart. Today, Laurent Champs, the fifth generation of the family, oversees the domaine. The estate is located in the Premier Cru village of Rilly-la-Montagne where Champs organically farms 10 parcels over 11 hectares, including small holdings in Villers-Allerand. Like many of the villages in this area, Rilly faces north. The holdings here are in a privileged place; on a south facing hillside called Blanches Voies are 65-year-old ungrafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines that comprise Laurent’s top cuvees. His other parcels are in the south west facing vineyard of Hautes Grèves, another vineyard with both Chardonnay and Pinot planted. The estate is made up of about 70% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and just about one percent of Meunier. Vilmart is a member of Ampelos, an organization that promotes organic and sustainable viticulture, and Champs has never used any herbicides or chemical fertilizerssince taking over the estate.
Laurent ferments and ages all of the wines in oak: large 2200-5500 liter foudre and demi-muid for the NV wines and smaller barrique as well as demi-muid for vintage wines. Malolactic fermentation is always blocked, giving the wines a crisp acidic structure coupled with the richness of the fermentation and aging regimen.
“Vilmart & Cie. is not only one of the greatest grower-estates in Champagne, but one of the finest champagne producers of any type in the region.” – Peter Liem
“Life is short, eat dessert first.” John Poole may have taken Winston Churchill’s words to heart when he opened Poole’s Pie Shop in 1945. For six years the cozy spot was a veritable holy grail of pies – all sweet – but soon their patrons wanted more. In the early 1950’s, “chicken slick,” sandwiches, and a daily “hot plate” made their way onto the Poole’s menu, and the line to be served wrapped around the corner. The pie shop moved out, as Poole’s Pies became Poole’s Luncheonette, and a downtown hot-spot was born.
In its latest incarnation Poole’s Diner has returned to its diner roots under the ownership of Chef Ashley Christensen. Marrying a clean aesthetic with retro-chic charm, Christensen restored and highlighted the “bones” of the original restaurant, including the double horseshoe bar and red leather banquettes, pairing it with modern elements like Lucite chairs, and oversized blackboard menus that change daily based on season and availability.
Since making Raleigh her home, Chef Ashley Christensen has sought to foster community through food, philanthropy and the stimulation of the city’s downtown neighborhood. Ashley began cooking during college, throwing dinner parties for her friends and family. These intimate gatherings helped her recognize her passion for cooking and sharing food, and ultimately led to her first professional cooking job at the age of 21. Upon taking the position, she knew she had found her life’s work. After working in some of the Triangle’s top kitchens, Ashley opened Poole’s Diner in 2007, which takes its name and décor from the building’s original tenant–one of downtown Raleigh’s first restaurants. The philosophy of the kitchen and bar at Poole’s Diner is simple to digest … creative, simple offerings carefully executed. Our menus are inspired by the season and its many offerings. As the season changes, at some points on a daily basis, so do our chalkboard menus. We work with local growers and artisan producers whenever possible, to showcase their craft, while practicing our own. We are proud to be a part of a community that recognized the importance and value of supporting the small family farm.
When she’s not in the kitchen, Ashley focuses her time on a number of local and regional charities. She has served as a board member of the Frankie Lemmon Foundation and a co-chair of its annual fundraising event, Triangle Wine Experience. She has also served on the board of Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. She is an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and founded the biannual event Stir the Pot, in which she hosts visiting chefs in Raleigh to raise funds for the SFA’s documentary initiatives.
Ashley’s work has gained national attention from such publications as Bon Appétit, Gourmet, The New York Times, Southern Living and Garden & Gun. She has appeared on Food Network’s popular series Iron Chef America and MSNBC’sYour Business.
In 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast.” Her first cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, will was released by Ten Speed Press in September 2016 to accolades from the New York Times.